Guest Blog Post: Bad Asses and Boo-Book Kissers: My Idea of Strong Female Character




War and Peach

Feb 07, 2017 | 304 Pages

By Susan Furlong

I’ve been fortunate to have many strong female influences in my life: my grandmothers and aunts, sisters, caring teachers, and above all, my own mother. I’m grateful to these women, both past and present, who have showed me what it means to be a formidable female. And perhaps most importantly, that being strong doesn’t necessarily mean keeping up with my male counterparts, but being wholeheartedly and unapologetically ME. It means I can be a real bad ass when needed and still be compassionate and nurturing. I can be physically and emotionally strong, yet be soft and nurturing and admit when I need help or comfort. I can go to the workplace, or the gym, or wherever, match the intensity and ferocity of any male and still come home to kiss boo-boos and wipe away tears, enjoy ‘girly makeovers’ with my daughters, and lovingly prepare a meal for my husband.

To me, being a strong female means I like what I like, and I am who I am. No apologies.

I strive to create indomitable, dynamic female characters in each book I write. In the Georgia Peach Mysteries, readers are introduced to Nola Mae Harper, a Georgia Belle who epitomizes the strength, courage and undeniable grit of her Southern female ancestors. Having traveled the world as a humanitarian aid worker, she’s faced unimaginable hardships and witnessed firsthand the devastation and poverty endured by many peoples in third world countries and she brings these experiences back home to her Southern roots and her hometown of Cays Mill, Georgia. It’s no wonder that when Nola comes face to face with family misfortunes, community debacles and even murder, she’s able to draw from her inner strength and tackle obstacles with true female strength. Sometimes that means relying on the support of her family and friends and sometimes it means taking out the trash … literally. Whatever the situation calls for, Nola is up for the challenge. She’s sure and capable, confident and compassionate, loving and strong … she’s my type of gal.




Blog Tour Spot – Karen Kay offers another wonderful excerpt from Seneca Surrender










Am so glad you decided to visit the blog today at the Gotta Write Network.   You’re in luck cause I’ll be giving away a free e-book of SENECA SURRENDER today — so come on in, put your feet up and leave a comment if you are so inclined.  Well, I thought I’d start out with an excerpt from my most recent release, SENECA SURRENDER.  Here you go!





An Excerpt

It was only a few days later when, with the aid of the cane White Thunder had fashioned for her, she struggled onto her feet and slowly, with one foot placed carefully after another, began to walk. Soon, within a matter of days, she was walking without aid. And though her muscles still spasmed with pain now and again, neither she nor White Thunder had dared to repeat the deep massage.

It was liberating to be able to amble about again, and she realized a limited truth. Lack of movement created, to a greater or lesser degree, a sort of enslavement. Certainly it made one dependent on the goodwill of another.

Within days, she could leave the cave on her own, and although at first she was reluctant to venture too far, eventually she conquered her fear and strolled out farther and farther into the woods. As she became stronger, she realized that for all practical purposes she would be able to leave this place soon. Not yet, because her legs wouldn’t always obey her every command. But soon.

Where would she go? What would she do? The worry hung over her like a dark cloud, since, to date, her past life remained a mystery to her.

It happened late one afternoon, suddenly and without warning. One moment she had been safe and warm in the cave, the next she had ventured out of it to come face-to-face with a bear—a big, fully grown black bear.

She froze.

The bear growled, stood onto its hind legs and pawed at the air. She was dwarfed by it. It howled, the sound terrorizing. Adrenaline and fear washed through her.

She remained frozen to the spot. Though the bear made no forward movement, it was close enough that the air around her became scented with the animal.

Without warning something changed, and the bear came down on all fours and started toward her.

She screamed.

Stunned at the noise, the bear stopped, and looking right and left, it pawed at the ground. Bringing its attention back to her, the bear slowly, carefully, closed the distance between them.

“Put your arms up over your head and growl!” It was White Thunder. “Do it. Now!”

She did as White Thunder ordered. Raising her hands over her head, she opened her mouth and snarled at the bear.

As before, the bear stopped, sniffed at the air and gave her a cautious look, but plodded forward.

“Keep growling. Louder! Make your voice more savage,” ordered White Thunder, who was crouched atop high ground next to the cave. “He’s tired and looking for a place to sleep. He may decide you’re too much for him. Keep growling.”

Adrenaline pumped through her as, following White Thunder’s orders, she mustered up her loudest voice, as well as what she hoped was her most ferocious-looking face.

Again the bear hesitated, but hearing White Thunder, the bear finally took notice of him. Sensing he was the greater danger of the two, it came up onto his hind legs and growled at White Thunder, as though warning him away from his find.

When White Thunder did nothing but stare back and snarl at it, the bear came down to all fours, and ignoring White Thunder for the moment, turned back to continue its path toward her, as though it had decided she was the least likely to give him problems.

Step by step, the bear progressed dangerously close. All at once it rose to its hind legs and roared at her, this time extending its sharp paws outward. Only one thought surfaced: She was dead. She was dinner. Never had the desire to own and have a gun in her hand been more prevalent than it was at this moment.

Then it happened so quickly, she could hardly credit it. White Thunder shot straight in front of her, placing himself directly between her and the bear. The noise was deafening, for White Thunder was roaring and kicking up as much commotion as the bear.

It was either the most courageous act or the most reckless, for what White Thunder did next startled her. He bent forward, sticking his face into the bear’s, which was only a few feet away, and he snarled and snapped as though he were the more dangerous creature of the two.

The animal yowled right back at White Thunder, and so shrill was it, she thought her eardrums might never mend. Then it changed, and White Thunder was yelling directions at her. “Make noise!”

Without delay, she screamed and clapped her hands.

“Now we back up,” he shouted at her, “so as to tell him we give him the cave. We are no threat. Slowly, we back up, all the while we make as much noise as possible.”

Although White Thunder was holding his gun pointed directly at the bear, she knew it wouldn’t be protection enough against a head-on attack. After all, the musket had only one shot, the next attempt requiring priming and reloading.

He took a step back. She followed suit.

The bear came down onto all fours. It roared so vehemently, she wanted to run for cover. But it was impossible.

“If he starts toward us,” yelled White Thunder, “and paws at me, you are to turn and run—do you understand? Run downhill. A bear cannot easily follow if you go downhill. You are to run as fast as you can and don’t look back.”

“I won’t leave you!”

“You have no choice. I give you no choice. If I say run, you are to run. If I am to fight him, I cannot worry about you.”

Another step back followed these instructions, another and another.

Abruptly, the bear chose to take a leap toward them.


She turned to do exactly as told, but her legs refused to move. What was she to do? Even taking painfully slow steps was impossible. It was as if she were inadvertently crippled.

That was when she spotted it. Fire! Weren’t all animals afraid of fire?

The bear was already attacking White Thunder. She could hear their struggle, though because of the fear gripping her, she didn’t dare look back. But her legs responded at once, and rushing back into the cave, she picked up several of the sticks that were burning red-hot at their tips.

Without thinking of what she was about to do, she rushed out of the cave. Later in life, she would wonder where her courage and strength had come from. Until this moment, she’d never been aware of being particularly brave. She could only thank the good Lord that when valor was necessary, it was lying dormant within her.

White Thunder was on the ground, the bear over him. She rushed at the bear with the fire.

“Shoo! Get out of here!” Her voice was piercing and loud. She waved the weapon at the bear and tried to get close enough to light its fur on fire.

Her attempts did almost nothing to the beast. Its fur was too matted. Startled, the bear jumped back, allowing White Thunder a moment to bring up his musket and take careful aim.


White Thunder shot off a ball aimed straight into the eyeball of the bear.

It hit.

Still animated, the bear struggled forward. Had the shot served no purpose? White Thunder was reloading as fast as was humanly possible, and as she watched him struggle against time to prime and reload his weapon. She wondered, was this it? Was life suddenly over? This easily?

Memories instantaneously rushed through her mind. They came with no fanfare, no bells. Rather, they swamped her. Moments from her past flickered before her so quickly, she could barely take hold of them.

So overwhelming was it, she rocked back on her feet.

Meanwhile, the battle with the bear was coming to a close. The animal took one final step forward and fell over, dead.

She watched in horror, almost afraid to turn away from it, fearful it might only be catching its breath. Even as she looked at it, she wondered, what damage had it done to White Thunder?

No sooner had the thought formed within her mind than she was struck with another truth. She cared for White Thunder. Sexual tension aside, she honestly cared for this man.

She was breathing hard and fast, and she could hear White Thunder behind her, doing the same. At least he was still alive.

Though out of breath, he called out to her. “I told you to leave!”

“I could not do it, sir,” she cried. “You forget that my legs do not always obey me.”

At last she turned toward him. He was on the ground, his shirt torn with claw marks. There were several gashes on his chest and arms where the bear’s claws had found their mark. As she caught her breath, she could only thank the Lord in Heaven that because of the cool weather, White Thunder had worn a shirt this day. But his clothing was blood-soaked and was becoming more so by the minute.

“Look at what he’s done to you,” she said as she took several steps toward White Thunder, and came down on the ground beside him.

“They are scratches.” White Thunder did the unthinkable. He opened his arms to her, and she went into them willingly, both of them uncaring that he was bleeding all over her.

“You saved my life,” she whispered.

“As you did mine.”

“You came to my defense. You jumped in front of me and confronted the beast head-on.”

“Of course I did. Did you expect me to leave you to fight a bear on your own?”

“I didn’t expect anything, sir. I…I thank you.” Then a little shyly, she added, “I think also that my mistress will thank you as soon as I manage to find her again.”

He pushed her back from him and stared at her.

Tears were streaming down Sarah’s cheeks. “It’s true. I have remembered my past life and who I am. It happened suddenly. I remembered everything.”

“This is good.” He was smiling.

“Yes, it is very good. I will tell you more about it later. But come, you are hurt, and first I must do something about that.”

“I think I will need little attention. They are only scrapes,” he reiterated.

Sarah drew back to look at him. “I will be the judge of that. Come.”

Placing her arms about him, she helped him to his feet, taking a great deal of his weight upon her. Together they limped into the cave…





Guest Blog Post – The Mystery of the Little Old Lady by Ellen Behrens


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In 1962 I listened to Arthur Godfrey on the radio while my mother combed my hair before sending me out the door to kindergarten. We baby boomers overflowed the two elementary schools, so I walked cement slabs and decorative, turn-of-the-nineteenth century brick sidewalks on my way to the Lutheran church, where my kindergarten class met in the basement. The next year I joined my older brother and sister at Main Street Elementary School, a low-ceilinged concrete building where big wall clocks slowly clicked ellenthe minutes away.

One day I came home from first grade and in the corner of the living room sat a piece of furniture that had never been there before: an upended rectangular box with wooden sides and a glass front with a green sort of oval in it.

A television!

We’d never had one before. Mom and Dad hadn’t said anything about this!

“When did we get that?” I asked my four-year-old sister.


“But how?” I knew Mom and Dad could never have afforded a television set. My older brother and sister were just as puzzled.

“The man from the TV Clinic brought it in his truck,” Mom said. “He just pulled in the driveway, walked up the front porch, and said, ‘I have something for the Cox children,’ but wouldn’t say who it was from.”

“I don’t believe it,” I said, looking at my little sister, who was nodding in agreement with Mom’s words.

“Didn’t you ask him?” my older sister said.

Mom nodded. “But all he would say was, ‘It’s from a white-haired lady in a black raincoat.’”

“Didn’t he know who she was?”

“He kept grinning, like he was proud to be in on such a secret, but he wouldn’t say anything more.”

My older sister, a voracious reader, had been pouring through every Nancy Drew book my parents could get their hands on. She knew a mystery when she saw one: this was The Mystery of the Little Old Lady. We assumed she was old — we couldn’t picture any young woman nor any of the neighborhood mothers in white hair or a raincoat in sunny weather. How would Nancy solve this? She would investigate. Talk to the TV Clinic man. But that meant crossing the highway on our bicycles, and we weren’t allowed to do that. We thought of all the people we knew who fit the description, only to eliminate each one.

Then someone suggested Mrs. Hall. Mrs. Hall was rumored to be the richest woman around. She lived in the oldest house in town, close to us, so she could have known we didn’t have a television. We’d even seen her wear a black raincoat, although she still tinted her hair red. Maybe the white hair clue was a red herring!

We took our solution to Mom, but she shook her head at the name. “I don’t think she’d be the type to give someone something without letting everyone in town know it was her.”

We were disappointed. No one else seemed to fit the bill. “Who do you think it is, Mom?”

She smiled. “I think it’s someone who doesn’t want to be found out, so I don’t think you should try.”

This made sense, so we resigned ourselves to watching the Jesse James show and tried not to wonder any more about who had done such a wonderful thing.

Mom and Dad put an ad in the local weekly newspaper, thanking our anonymous friend for the gift. We learned to live with the mystery we were reminded of every day, but eventually thought of the TV’s unusual arrival less frequently.

Maybe we would have forgotten the episode entirely except seven years later we had another visit. This time it was Mr. Peters who owned the hardware store on the corner of Main and Buckeye streets. With the same mischievous grin the man from the TV Clinic sported, Mr. Peters wheeled a mini washer and dryer combination through the front door and into our living room.

He smiled when we quizzed him, saying only that a woman with white hair and a black raincoat asked him to have it delivered to our family. We could tell he knew who our mysterious benefactor was, but his lips were sealed in a good-natured grin.

We puzzled this time over who could have known Mom and Dad were spending one night a week at the local Laundromat, and again gave up the mystery as unsolvable.

A few years later, my younger sister and I climbed into the family car to go to the grocery store with Mom and Dad. “I’ll just grab the mail before we go,” Mom said, heading around the house to the front porch. Our older siblings were away at college, I was getting ready to attend, and money was tight. Mom had already said she had no idea what we’d get at the store but we’d make our budget stretch by seeing what was on sale.

My sister and I were settled in the back when Mom got into the passenger seat. Among the bills and junk mail was a plain white envelope, no return address.

“Wonder what this is,” Mom mumbled as she tore open the envelope. To everyone’s dismay, she pulled out a twenty dollar bill. Then another. And another. Five of them in total.

In the early 1970s, this was a lot of money. More than enough for one trip to the grocery store. For the third time, our anonymous friend had read our minds, understood our needs, and had answered our prayers. Though the first gift had been a luxury, the last two were perfectly chosen and precisely (it seemed) timed.

That was the last we heard from our secret benefactor. We surmised it was a good-bye gift or perhaps we’d been written into someone’s will. Whatever the reason, we were — and still are — grateful to have been thought of in this way, even if it meant The Mystery of the Little Old Lady would never be solved.


©Copyright Ellen Behrens. All rights reserved.

New Title: Bookman Dead Style by Paige Shelton


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Bookman Dead Style


Paperback – $7.99

Feb 07, 2017 | 304 Pages


Blog Tour Spot – Chapter one of Karen Kay’s new book “Seneca Surrender”





The year is 1755. It is a time of unrest. Both the English and the French are battling for control of the North American continent. Both seek the support of the united and strong Iroquois Confederation. Deprivations are extant on both sides of the quarrel, the French and Indians of Canada against the English, the Mohawk and Seneca of the Americas.
As always, in any time of dissension, there are those who seek to profit from the ruin of others.

Chapter One

The Territory of the Iroquois Indians
Lake George area in upstate New York State
By the Lake-That-Turns-to-Rapids
Saskekowa Moon, September 1755
There were eight enemy warriors paddling their two canoes on the lake. One canoe held four of the Ottawa warriors. The other carried two Frenchmen and two more of the Ottawa. At the sight, Sarah’s stomach twisted. They were all heavily armed with guns, tomahawks, hatchets and knives, some carrying two muskets. Sarah’s guide, on the other hand, possessed only one musket, a hatchet, a tomahawk and several knives. And he was only one against eight.

Sarah bit her lip and placed her arm around Marisa, a younger woman who was under Sarah’s charge. Although Marisa was now full-grown, Sarah, at twenty-and-nine, was the elder by ten years. Plus, Sarah was Marisa’s confidante and companion, as well as her maid. She was also Marisa’s tutor, and, as far as Sarah understood it, they were best friends. So it had been for most of Marisa’s life, and fourteen years of Sarah’s.

“They have seen it,” whispered Black Eagle.

“What?” muttered Marisa.

“The silver dish. They will come here. And when they discover it, they will find us. Go to the horses now, mount them and ride away from here. Go now! Go fast! Ride to Albany. That will be safest.”

“And leave you?” Marisa said.

Black Eagle stared long and hard at Marisa, his look emanating a love so deep, it caused Sarah to sigh. In truth, for a moment she wondered if she might ever be on the receiving end of such attention from a man—one who was so deeply in love with you that he was willing to give his life to protect you.

Sarah shook her head and gazed away. She might never know. Indeed, if circumstances continued in the same vein as they had begun this day, this might very well be her last day upon this earth.

At last, Black Eagle yanked his focus away from Marisa. “Yes, you are to leave me, and at once. I will hold the enemy off for as long as I can.” As he spoke, he turned his attention to his weapons, whereupon he proceeded to load his musket with powder and lead. “Go! Now!” He waved them away.

Marisa hesitated. Then, as though compelled, she inched toward Black Eagle and laid her hand on his arm. “I cannot leave you.”

Sarah would have spoken up in denial, for it was her duty to protect her charge. But she was spared the opportunity.

“You must,” responded Black Eagle gently. “If you stay, you might be killed accidentally. Now, go! Both of you, go!”

Grabbing a handful of the material of Marisa’s dress, Sarah urged the woman to crawl backward with her. But Marisa broke free of Sarah’s hold and again scooted close to Black Eagle. Placing her fingers over Black Eagle’s hand, she massaged it tenderly before she said, “I want you to know that I love you.”

He replied simply, “I know. Now, go!”

Unfortunately for Marisa, there was little more to be said. Sarah knew this, and although Sarah watched the two lovers exchange a look, she backed away, knowing that this time, Marisa followed.

The horses were already saddled. Both women were good riders, and though Sarah offered a hand to help Marisa into her seat, Marisa waved her away. Sarah wasted no time and ran to the other mount, but had no more than placed her foot into the stirrup when Thompson appeared out of the woods, running toward them. He was a big man and unclean. Plus, despite the fact he was supposed to be their real guide, in Sarah’s opinion, he was little more than a bully. Lucklessly for them, he had his sights set on Marisa and was racing toward her like a well-aimed bullet.

“Yaw!” he shouted as he ran. “Where do ye think ye are a-goin’?”

Neither Sarah nor Marisa had a chance to utter a word. In an instant, Thompson had laid siege upon them, attacking Marisa first, pulling her off her seat. Instinctively a scream formed in Sarah’s throat, but more than aware of the enemy about them, she contained it. After whisking her foot out of the stirrup, she came down, landing on both feet. Immediately, she pulled two pistols from their cases on her mount, pushing the guns into the pockets of her dress, and rushed toward Marisa. Thompson held Marisa in his grip, but by sheer willpower alone, Sarah snatched her out of their tormentor’s clutches.

Thompson was a persistent opponent, and bringing up his flintlock, he focused its deadly barrel on Marisa. However, luck was on their side. His gun wasn’t primed.
Both Sarah and Marisa ran for cover. After extracting one of the weapons from her pocket, Sarah handed it to Marisa, keeping the other gun for herself.

Fortunately, Thompson’s shot never materialized. Perhaps the brute was well aware of the threesome’s precarious situation. Mayhap he was cognizant that Black Eagle and the two women might never escape.

Whatever the reason, instead of loading the weapon and finishing his purpose, Thompson merely grinned toward the spot where the women had disappeared. Then, clutching hold of both the horses, Thompson fled back into the woods, but not before he said, “I leave ye to yer fate.”

“Pray,” Marisa mumbled softly. “Black Eagle was right. It was Thompson who has been the cause of our troubles.”

“Yes,” agreed Sarah, “so it is.”

“Well, there’s little we can do now. Let us return to the shore and help Black Eagle as best we can.”

“Yes.” But exactly what help they could be to him remained to be seen. They needed Black Eagle’s protection much more than he required theirs. Still, both women bent down to hands and knees, and pushing their skirts out of the way, they scooted back toward Black Eagle.

They found Black Eagle in the same spot where they had left him, and Sarah was quick to note that one of the canoes, the one carrying the two Frenchmen, was continuing forward on the lake. However, the enemy’s other canoe—the one transporting the four Ottawa warriors—had turned to shore. Sarah glanced at Black Eagle. This was it. It was only she, Marisa and he against a well-armed enemy. What was Black Eagle thinking? Was he preparing himself mentally and physically for what was to come?
But what if the confrontation never came? After all, it was possible that the enemy might examine the silver cup that she and Marisa had mistakenly left next to the shore, the one that had obviously caught their attention, and do no more than be happy with the treasure.

Even as she thought it, Sarah knew it would not be so. These seasoned warriors were Indian. They would take witness of the tracks both she and Marisa had made when they had been washing up after their noonday meal. Indeed, with all the impressions she and Marisa had left on the shoreline, their prints would lead the Ottawa warriors to them, and neither she, Black Eagle, nor Marisa would be spared.

Meanwhile, Black Eagle was tense, alert.

“Sir Eagle,” Marisa said.

Briefly, Black Eagle swung around to look at her. Obviously he had not been expecting this turn of events. He looked incredulous. “Why are you not gone?” he asked in a whisper. “I told you to leave.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we cannot do so,” Marisa whispered. “I fear that Mr. Thompson overpowered us before we had even attained our seats on the horses.”

“Where is Thompson now?”

“He rode away, taking the horses with him. But before he left, Sarah was able to secure these.” She held up her pistol. Sarah did the same.

“Do you know how to use those weapons?” he asked her.

Sarah nodded, and Marisa whispered, “Yes.”

Black Eagle ordered beneath his breath, “Both of you, move back behind me. Stay down. Fire only if you get a good shot, otherwise do no more than watch. If I go down, do not fight the enemy. Yield to them. It is doubtful that they will kill you. Do you understand? Do nothing.”

Sarah and Marisa both nodded, and following Black Eagle’s orders, they each backed away.

Panic was mounting within Sarah, but oddly, now that the moment of confrontation had arrived, a strange calm came over her. She positioned herself for the best possible advantage, checked her powder, and took aim.

Meanwhile, the canoe slid silently to the shore. The warriors disembarked in the water, keeping themselves low. Slowly, quietly, they brought their canoe farther inland, anchoring it on the rocks lining the sandy bank.

Stepping onto the ground, one of the warriors bent down, examining the tracks over the rocks. Another warrior crept forward toward the bushes, where Black Eagle, Sarah and Marisa were hiding. The two other warriors were sneaking toward the item that had gained their attention—the silver dish. Black Eagle waited with what appeared to be great patience, until the warrior who was stealing in the direction of the bushes was almost upon him. Then, crying out, he jumped up, the savage attack and the element of surprise in his favor. The ploy worked, but only for a fraction of a second. Still, it was enough. Black Eagle thrust his tomahawk into the warrior’s neck.

However, with the first war cry, the three other Ottawa warriors went into action. Black Eagle was ready for them. With musket in his left hand, he fired a shot toward one of them. An almost instant scream followed, and another warrior hit the ground.
Without pause, Black Eagle tore forward, launching himself toward the other two warriors. They were prepared, muskets ready.

Sarah had taken steady aim toward them. She dare not miss. She fired. It was a good shot. Another one of the warriors fell.

Unfortunately, Black Eagle hadn’t waited to see if the shot made its mark. Instead, he hurled himself toward the remaining warrior. The Ottawa was ready for him and thrust out at Black Eagle with his tomahawk.

Marisa gasped, for it was a deadly joust, but Black Eagle was agile and quick. He threw himself down, turning a somersault underneath the man’s arm. Coming up on the other side of the man, and with a backhand, Black Eagle rammed his tomahawk into the back of his opponent. The warrior was thrown off balance. Regaining his feet, Black Eagle finished the job. Using his hatchet, he landed a disabling blow into the warrior’s arm.

Still, the Ottawa was standing. Taking hold of his tomahawk, Black Eagle dealt the man a clean blow to his chest. That finished it. The Ottawa went down.

But it seemed the ordeal wasn’t over. Black Eagle was calling to the women. “Come!” He pointed toward the lake. “Do you see? Their friends have come back to investigate. Hurry to the canoe. We’ll take our chances on the water.”

Sarah and Marisa jumped to their feet. Springing out of the bushes, they made a line to the canoe. Luckily, the enemy had left their paddles in the dugout, and Black Eagle had set the boat out into the lake. Both women hurriedly splashed toward it.
By this time, Black Eagle was waist deep in the water and shouting, “Get in. Pick up a paddle.”

Already, shots from the oncoming canoe were hitting the water around them, the barrage a deadly reminder of what was to be if they didn’t escape. Sarah plopped herself into a seat and reached out to help Marisa, but her young charge needed little assistance. Marisa was more than able and ready to seat herself. Quickly, they each picked up a paddle and, adding their assistance to Black Eagle, they set out in the water.

Without warning Thompson reappeared, splashing his way toward them. Sarah lunged toward Marisa, her fingers coming into contact with Marisa’s weapon, since Sarah’s pistol was useless, having just been fired.

Marisa stayed her hand. “Maybe he has come to his senses and will help us.”
“I fear your heart is too kind,” exclaimed Sarah over the noise of the water and the oncoming enemy. However, Sarah hesitated.

Thompson pulled himself up alongside the canoe and plopped himself into it. He even picked up a paddle. Maybe she was wrong. Amidst all the adversity, perhaps the man had changed the color of his stripes.

“Let’s get out of here!” Thompson yelled, and Black Eagle didn’t argue. After hoisting himself into the boat and settling his paddle into the water, Black Eagle guided the boat out into the deepest part of the lake, heading west, away from the enemy, but in the direction of a sound that had Sarah’s heartbeat picking up such speed she could feel it in her throat.

It was a waterfall, and from the noise of it, a large one. Was this their only advantage?
Perhaps it was so, for they were outnumbered. In a fight, it would be the two men against four of the enemy, two French, two Ottawa. Worse, Thompson was an obvious traitor whose actions could not be trusted. Still, now that he was back among them, it was Thompson’s neck as well as their own.

“Faster!” yelled Black Eagle.

Arrows, aimed at their speeding canoe, hit the water beside them with deadly force. Marisa’s paddle made contact with the lake’s surface at an angle, causing her to tip dangerously out of their craft. Sarah threw down her paddle and pulled Marisa back against her with one arm while she gripped the side of the wet canoe with her other. Though her fingers slipped, Sarah held fast.

As Sarah nestled Marisa into her arms, the two women sat silently, riding out the jerks and sways of the boat.

The scent of Thompson’s unwashed body assailed Sarah, causing her to wonder that a human being could emit such odor. Why was Mr. Thompson back? Though she feared it was for no good, Sarah held her tongue.

“Faster!” Black Eagle yelled again.

Behind them, the French and Ottawa kept up a steady stream of fire, the arrows landing dangerously close. The odds were against Black Eagle. It was impossible. And yet, he must escape. They all must. If they didn’t get away…

How had they gotten themselves into this? Suddenly the scheme of journeying to New Hampshire to visit friends seemed a bad idea, indeed. Was it only minutes ago—perhaps no more than thirty—when Sarah and her ward had been seated beside the lake, calmly washing up after their noonday meal?

But that was when they had first caught a glimpse of the enemy. Had it not been for the silver dish they had left at the water’s edge, the enemy might have passed them by. But it was not to be.

The Ottawa had spotted the dish. They had investigated. And now, because of her own error, she had taken another’s life.

The killing of another human being was not an action to be entered into lightly. But, it had been kill or be killed. Ultimately for her, there was no going back now.

The sound of rushing water, of the pounding roar of the waterfall, drowned out her thoughts. She could now see the deadliness of their position. Rapids. Surely, Black Eagle wasn’t thinking of braving those?

Instinctively, Sarah leaned toward the shoreline, as though by sheer inclination alone she might steer the boat in that direction. An arrow hit the water, scraping her hand. Close, much too close. Perhaps the rapids were their only means of escape, after all. Black Eagle must be thinking so, for he was steering their canoe directly toward the source of that turbulence.

Again, Sarah’s heart jumped into her throat.

Meanwhile, the canoe had picked up speed, heading toward the waterfall at a deadly pace. Marisa was still leaning back into Sarah’s arms, and Sarah instinctively tightened her hold on her friend. There was no changing course now. The speed of the water had them within its grip.

Sarah threw a look over her shoulder. Even now, the enemy was almost upon them.
Truly it was a test. Which would come first, the watery death on the rapids, or at the sure hand of the Ottawas?

The velocity of the current pushed at them and thrust them one way and then the other, taking them into an ever-faster speed toward the noise that signified the end: the waterfall.

Another well-aimed arrow knocked against the canoe’s lining, barely missing Sarah’s shoulder. Was the enemy, too, chancing the rapids? Sarah glanced back hurriedly. No, the French and Ottawa were turning back, paddling their boat toward the southern shore of the lake. Sarah inhaled deeply, but her relief was short-lived.

Before them lay a greater danger and surely as deadly a hazard as the Ottawa.

Black Eagle struggled to turn their canoe toward the northern shoreline, away from the enemy, but the currents pulled him back.

“Damn!” Black Eagle muttered. The curse word seemed unusual coming from his lips. In all their adventures so far on the trail, Sarah had never heard him utter anything but more formal speech. She watched helplessly as Black Eagle set his paddle into the water once again, pressing to gain the opposite shoreline from their enemy. He had no more than set his course when a hidden eddy took hold of their canoe and swung it around and around.

The canoe rocked back and forth unnaturally, and Sarah, looking back over her shoulder, was startled that Thompson had come up onto his knees and was crawling forward. Reaching down, he grabbed Marisa out of Sarah’s grasp.

Instinctively, Sarah tugged at Marisa, trying to keep hold of her. When that failed, she used all her strength to pummel Thompson with her fists, but he was much too big and strong, and he kept a grasp on Marisa despite all of Sarah’s attempts to thwart him. It looked bad. He raised Marisa to his shoulder level and would have thrown her from the canoe, into the lethal undercurrents of the eddy, had Sarah not bitten his arm.

Thompson and Marisa screamed at the same time, but Sarah clutched at Marisa, and she fell back into the canoe, guided by Sarah’s hand. But Thompson didn’t give up. He grabbed hold of Marisa again.

At last, Black Eagle, who had been centering his effort in the act of saving their canoe, became aware of the fight. Throwing down his paddle, he surged back toward the skirmish to confront Thompson.

Thompson had no choice now but to let Marisa go, and the two men, fighting in an upright position, sent the boat rocking so greatly Sarah feared it would tip over and throw them all into the tumultuous water.

By the good luck of the Lord, it didn’t happen. However, their fate appeared to hang on the ability of a single man, Black Eagle, to best a man who was both bigger and stronger than he.

Thompson raised a knife. Black Eagle blocked Thompson’s hand, thrusting the man’s arm high in the air. Each struggled for supremacy. The canoe lurched precariously against the currents, and Sarah and Marisa used their energy to keep the boat afloat.
The struggle pitched the canoe out of the eddy. The forceful motion hurled the boat more furiously than ever into the rushing current, setting the canoe steadily toward the thundering sound of the rapids. Just how high was this waterfall?

The two men didn’t notice, locked as they were in their own mortal struggle. Thompson launched out at Black Eagle, socking him in the jaw. The blow knocked Black Eagle backward, but he recovered easily and shot forward, catching hold of Thompson’s arm and raising it again high in the air.

Both men fell down into the canoe. Thompson looked up, and Sarah was witness to the horror that came instantly onto his face. Without further pretense at the fight, Thompson let go of Black Eagle and dived over the edge of the canoe, disappearing into swirling streams of water.

Black Eagle, who was still in the throes of battle, must have briefly felt the urge to do the same—to take the conflict into the water’s fatal depths. But with a quick look about him, his gaze turned to one of love as his eyes sought out Marisa.

Then, a flash of dread fell over Black Eagle’s features. It was indisputable. Their boat was on a one-way path to the falls.

They were doomed.

Black Eagle knelt beside Marisa. Within his gaze was so much love and admiration that Sarah felt as though she were an intruder in something utterly private. It was as if Black Eagle were saying to Marisa, by intention alone, that were this to be his last moment on earth, he would shower her with adoration.

Marisa appeared to be of a similar frame of mind. Her stare at him matched his. Sarah glanced away, feeling as if she were trespassing.

It couldn’t last, however. Time wouldn’t allow it. Black Eagle at last jerked his gaze away, and Sarah watched as he scanned the scene in front of them. Instantly, he sat up, alert.

“Take Sarah’s arm,” he yelled to Marisa. “Don’t let go!” He got to his feet.
Marisa and Sarah exchanged a gaze and took hold of each other.

Black Eagle grasped Marisa’s arm. “Don’t let go of me,” he ordered. “Use all your strength, both of you. Use everything in you, but don’t break your grip on each other.”
Marisa and Sarah nodded as their boat, caught in the currents, tipped over the edge of the falls. Both Marisa and Sarah screamed. But it wasn’t over, not yet.

There was a branch Sarah hadn’t noticed, a strong and sturdy part of a mighty oak tree that had extended over the falls. If Black Eagle could but reach it with his arm…
He did it. Black Eagle seized the tree limb at the same moment their canoe would have carried them past it.

The force of the motion jerked all three from the canoe, and there they hung, each one dangling from the other’s grasp. Were they saved? Sarah couldn’t say with certainty. She was clenching with all her might onto Marisa, who was, in turn, grasping Black Eagle’s arm. But the force of the movement out of the canoe swung both the women back and forth, causing Sarah’s grip to slacken.

Thank goodness Indians were conditioned to carry heavy loads, for Black Eagle kept them both close, using only one arm to do so. Then, taking advantage of their natural momentum, Black Eagle began to swing them both toward the shore. It wasn’t that far away.

“Hold on!” Black Eagle shouted. “I’m going to sweep you both to shore.”

Sarah slipped.

“I can’t,” she hollered, crying, bringing up her other hand to obtain a better grip. “I can’t keep hold. It’s too slippery!”

“Nyoh, you can. You must!”

“I’m trying to, but—”

“She’s slipping away from me!” Marisa yelled.

“I’ve got you,” Black Eagle called to her. “Keep hold. Keep hold!”

But Sarah’s hands were too wet, as were Marisa’s. Though Sarah tried with all her might, her grip was loosening. Black Eagle was pitching them toward shore with all due haste, but Sarah’s strength was failing.

Marisa wouldn’t let go. “Sarah! Keep hold!”

With a deafening scream, Sarah’s grip broke, and she fell, her screams echoing over the rushing water, drowning out the sounds of the pounding weight of the falls.
The last thought she had as she swooped down into the water was that she had failed in her duty—she would not be there to chaperone Marisa and Black Eagle. Indeed, her fate now lay elsewhere.

Senator Elizabeth Warren to Write New Book on the Fight to Save America’s Middle Class



My Approved Portraits

NEW YORK, February 7, 2017—Senator Elizabeth Warren is writing a new book about how we can win the fight to revive and expand America’s struggling middle class, it was recently announced by Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt and Company. Entitled “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class,” it will be published by the company’s Metropolitan Books imprint on April 18, 2017, and edited by John Sterling, editor at large for Macmillan.

One of the country’s leading progressive voices and foremost champions of the middle class, Senator Warren tells the story of how the United States built the greatest middle class in history, and how big corporations and financial institutions then came to overpower the interests of poor, lower-income, and middle-class Americans. The story moves from President Roosevelt’s progressive New Deal, to President Reagan’s disastrous trickle-down economics, and now to President Trump’s promises that are pushing the middle class ever closer to collapse.

Senator Warren’s book delivers a rousing call to action and an outline for reclaiming our government so that it is less beholden to the rich and powerful and better serves people who work hard every day but now face such an uncertain future. Written in the forthright, inspiring voice that is Senator Warren’s trademark, the book provides candid accounts of her battles in the Senate, vivid stories about her life and work, and powerful descriptions of the experiences of working Americans who have too often suffered under economic policies that leave them out in the cold.

“Elizabeth Warren is a fighter whose most potent weapon is her ability to communicate—to let the world know about wrongs that she seeks to right,” said Rubin. “Her personal experience growing up in a working-class family, her deep knowledge of American’s middle class, and the urgency of her message about the country’s trajectory make this book especially timely and important.”

“Washington works great for the rich and powerful who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it is not working very well for everyone else,” Senator Warren said. “America’s once-solid middle class is on the ropes, and now Donald Trump and his administration seem determined to deliver the knock-out punch. At this perilous moment in our country’s history, it’s time to fight back—and I’m looking for more people to join me.”

Henry Holt/Metropolitan also published Senator Warren’s previous book, the national bestseller, A Fighting Chance (2014).

Rubin acquired world rights from Robert Barnett of Williams & Connolly, LLP. A portion of the author’s net proceeds from the book will be donated to The Greater Boston Food Bank, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Worcester County Food Bank, and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.


About Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is the senior senator from Massachusetts. A former Harvard Law School professor, she is the author of ten books, including “A Fighting Chance,” a bestseller that received widespread critical acclaim. The mother of two and grandmother of three, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, Bruce Mann.

About Macmillan

Macmillan is a global publisher of books, magazines, textbooks, scientific information, and digital content and services. In the United States, the group includes Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry Holt and Company; Flatiron Books; St. Martin’s Press; Tor Books; Picador; Macmillan Audio; Bedford St. Martin’s; W. H. Freeman; Worth Publishers; i-clicker; Hayden-McNeil; Palgrave Macmillan; and Scientific American magazine.

Interview – Robert Skuce introduces you to the Kiss of Death



5a3a3812-5-768x931-w500-oTalk about spooky. The cover of “Kiss of Death” makes you think twice about going out in the rain. What did you want to deliver to readers with your latest thriller/crime story?

I wanted to write a good old fashioned thriller. The kind of book that keeps you guessing who did it and what’s going to happen next. It’s my hope that at the end of the book the reader says, “how did I miss that?”

Who is Bruno Norcross and what challenges has he been up against?

Bruno is your classic cop. The kind of man who lives in the modern age, but truly belongs in the past. Only one killer ever escaped his grasp and he has been waiting for him. Now he is on the hunt to catch this killer so he/she doesn’t get away again.

What is the known history on the “Kiss of Death”? Has he killed only in Detective Norcross’ state?

Kiss of death has only killed one girl before this. Bruno’s partner’s daughter and Bruno is determined to get his man even if he is the only one who believes that the obvious suspect isn’t his man. Kiss of Death has only killed in one area and it seems to be his MO.

One case hit the police department hard. Who was involved?

kiss-of-death-coverBruno’s partner’s daughter was murdered then the killer vanished and the whole department is determined to get him this time.

Now another college student has been killed. Is Norcross assigned to the case?

Yes, Bruno is the only cop who has seen the killer, but he escaped. He is assigned the case by the first victim’s father because he wants Bruno to give him the name of the man who killed his only daughter.

Does he have enough evidence to make an arrest?

Bruno is pulled in every direction and every time he thinks he has found his man, the evidence pulls him in a completely different direction. It’s a guessing game of facts and evidence that has Bruno on the hunt.

What did it take to write this book?

This book was the first time that I had attempted to write a realistic crime book. It was more challenging then previous books, but it was also more rewarding.

Where are you from and what do you do for a living? How do you balance your writing life with your family and job?

I’m Canadian and work in IT. Finding balance is a challenge at times since work and family responsibilities are always there. There are times when I want to write that great chapter, but just don’t have time. Generally, it’s a matter of prioritizing and having a very understanding family.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on Hunting Ground. This is my serial killer VS stalker book. I like the idea that two monsters see the world differently and its part of my theme about Lee Truelove as he goes through life and gets pulled deeper into his own darkness.




Guest Blog Post – Falling in Love with a Ghost by Fran Stewart




Lord Peter Wimsey. Jamie Fraser. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson. Dirk, the ScotShop’s 14th-century Scottish ghost. Don’t we love them all? Yes, but what do all these marvelous men in mysteries have in common?

Common sense—yes. Kindness—check. Sex appeal—yep. Integrity—you bet. Inner as well as outer strength—absolutely. Man of my (our) dreams—oh, yeah. All of those. But there’s something more, something deeper, something more elemental.

Here are five hints: Dorothy, Diana, Louise, Elizabeth, Fran.

If you want even broader hints: Sayers, Gabaldon, Penny, Peters, Stewart.

You guessed it. All five of these men were created by women. If we writers want our man to be wonderful, we imbue him with all those attributes we’d love to find in a non-fiction man.

We also, in the interest of keeping our character believable, give him a certain amount of orneriness, a cranky attitude now and again, a stubbornness that no man born on earth was ever completely without. How could he possibly be a real man without those things?

Some of us are fortunate enough to have found a man much like these five. Some of us have given up. Some of us are constantly hopeful. Where do you stand in that continuum?

One of my earliest memories is of sitting, safe and secure, in my father’s lap while he read me the latest Caspar the Friendly Ghost comic book. Little wonder then, that when I began writing the ScotShop mysteries, a ghost (whose birth name was Macbeath Donlevy Freusach Findlay Macearachar Macpheidiran of Clan Farquharson) was an integral part of them, right from the start. With a name like that, is it any wonder that Peggy, the owner of the ScotShop, calls him Dirk?

Did I model Dirk on Caspar? Nope. Did I model him on any one particular man? Well, no, although his common sense is a lot like that of my father, modified a bit by the four hundred years that separate their birth dates. And Dirk does look like somebody I knew a very long time ago, and he has a number of lovely qualities that I’ve seen in various male persons here and there along the way. Dirk is so luscious, in fact, it’s too bad he’s dead.

The three ScotShop mysteries follow much the same arc as a lot of relationships follow, an arc patterned on what happens in a fireplace. A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, the first book, shows the kindling phase of Peggy and Dirk’s connection as they get to know each other and begin to adjust to the wonder of being together. Of course, there’s a murdered body to contend with, but it doesn’t cloud the horizon too much.

In the second book, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, the fire blazes up and the relationship begins to tatter a bit, as Peggy becomes a tad resentful of Dirk’s constant presence in her life and his unrelenting questions about why the 21st century works the way it does. Someone once told me that a lot of marriages go through a rocky period at the seven-year mark, when all the wedding gifts begin to break. Something to think about, although Peggy and Dirk’s unease took months rather than years to develop. Of course, there’s a dead body to contend with here as well. After all, these are murder mysteries.

And now, in A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL, as Peggy finds herself more and more drawn to the equally magnificent Harper, her connection to Dirk settles into the deep bed of glowing coals that is the final result, the essence of a good fire. Of course, there’s yet another murder victim to contend with, but you were expecting one, weren’t you?

If you find someone in real life even half as marvelous as Dirk, I applaud your good fortune. If your guy can’t quite compare to my guy, though, just remember that the one I wrote is fictional. The one you have is real.

About the author:

Fran Stewart claims to have seen three ghosts, other than the one she created for her ScotShop Mysteries. Having lived in quite a few locales, the end product of having grown up in an Air Force family, she may have simply invented them, since an outrageous imagination is one survival tool for youngsters who move so frequently, but Fran swears they were real. Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, she lives and writes quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia.


Guest Blog Post – Writing the Series Sleuth by Miranda James





All my mystery novels have featured amateur detectives. The main reason for this is that I have always enjoyed mysteries with amateur sleuths, ever since I discovered Nancy Drew at the age of ten. I like the idea of an ordinary person stumbling into mysteries and then solving them. Critics often denigrate these books because they are deemed unrealistic. After all, how many ordinary people regularly encounter dead bodies?

The answer is, ordinary people don’t, unless they are spectacularly unlucky or they are undertakers. They would soon come under suspicion from the police. Thus I will quickly confess that, in this regard, my amateur detective novels aren’t realistic. They aren’t meant to be, in that regard. They’re meant to entertain, and I hope that’s what they do.

Readers have enjoyed books with amateur gumshoes for over a century now. Ever heard of Miss Jane Marple, for example? I happen to think that readers enjoy amateur sleuths because they are reading about people like themselves who don’t walk the mean streets of the city every day. I always enjoyed Nancy Drew and the other teen detectives because I could safely go adventuring in their shoes – though I certainly wouldn’t relish being hit on the head as many times as Nancy was.

The issue of a constant supply of corpses aside, I do try to ground my characters in their own reality. They have jobs, responsibilities, families – and I aim to capture this as I chronicle the lives of my characters as the series progresses. Most readers want to care about the series heroes and heroines, and I have to care as well, otherwise I wouldn’t want to spend the time necessary to write a 72,000 or more word book. Thus when readers tell me they love Charlie and Diesel, I am thrilled. Making – and sustaining — that connection between readers and characters is the key to keeping a series going.

Blog Tour Spot – An Interview with Romance Author Karen Kay




Karen and her husband.

I SEE THAT YOUR NEW NOVEL is part of the “Warriors of the Iroquois” series. Does it follow a family’s history or various warriors in the tribe?

It follows the lives of a young woman and her “lady in waiting.”  They are not related, but they are in the same household and are the best of friends.  The two heroes of the story know of each other but are from different tribes within the Iroquois Confederation. So I guess the answer would be sort of.  : )

Tell us about the time period Seneca warrior White Thunder lives in. Where does he live and what is life like for him and his people?

The year is 1756, and if I remember correctly, The French and Indian War is in full swing.  The Seneca lived in the Ohio Valley — they were what was called the Western Door of the Iroquois Confederation, the Mohawk being the Eastern Door.  But our hero doesn’t live there now.  He is searching for the murderers of his wife and child and  has given his pledge to his dying wife that he will not cease to hunt for them until the murderer is found and justice prevails.

seneca-surrender-gen-bailey-3-webWhat happened to his wife, Wild Mint? How has he lived with the grief for 15 years?

While the men in the tribe were gone on a hunt, the old men and women were attacked by an enemy tribe that included white men.  Wild Mint was killed, along with her unborn child, but Wild Mint continues to be a part of White Thunder’s life — sometimes in a misty-like form and sometimes merely by thought.  This character is based on an true story of a man whose wife died while he was away from camp, yet the wife continued to live with him, care for his home and prepare his meals each day — taking on a misty-like form that he could see and talk to.

What event further challenges him?

When he cannot find his wife’s murderers, he goes on a mission.  However, after 15 years, he is still unable to fulfill his promise.  He has chosen to live alone because his own people don’t understand why he still talks to Wild Mint and insists that she is with him.  They believe he has lost his mind.  It is during this time when he discovers Sarah.

What would happen if he brought the woman he rescued to his village? Would she be seen as a threat and outcast or accepted?

He eventually does bring Sarah to an Iroquois town.  But not his own, just yet.  At this time he is seeking Sarah’s friend and mistress, Marisa,  who has been lost to Sarah.  (This is the story of Black Eagle.)

What is Sarah up against? Where was she traveling to?

Sarah’s mistress, Marisa, is escaping her home in Albany because she has overheard a private conversation between her uncle and an assassin.  She has confronted her uncle, only to realize that she must leave in order to save her life.  Sarah accompanies her.  Her plan is to visit friends in New Hampshire, but the plan in these particular books, does not materialize.  Instead both women discover love as well as adventure.

What did you love about the book and its characters?

I loved being able to tell the tale about Sarah, who is an indentured servant.  It seems to me we forget that at this time period there were people (many of them prisoners) who came here to America as an indentured servant for a certain number of years.  Such was unheard of in Native America, and so it was an interesting challenge to tell their story and their differences.  Some of these people who came here were prisoners in England due to debt, or other conditions, that didn’t involve harming another individual.  And, of course, I love the clash of cultures and how each person figures out how to overcome their differences.

Was there a lot of research involved? How long did it take you to write it?

There is always a lot of research, but I love that part of the process — it takes me places and I learn historical facts that I didn’t know and wasn’t taught in school.  It’s all part of a discovery that I really love.  The book took me about 2-3 months to write, but revisions took almost as long — and so I think I could safely say it took me about 6-7 months to write the story.  : )

What are you working on now?

Well, at present, I’m back in the West writing about the Lakota.  The working title is BRAVE WOLF’S LADY — but these titles often change.  This book is not only back in the West, but features the scout of the tribe, one of the most important persons in the tribes of old.  What I intend is for it to be the first of a series of books featuring the scout — who was considered more important to the tribe’s survival than even the chief.  Because Hollywood centered so much on the chief, I think we forget — or perhaps didn’t even know — of the importance of the scout — without whom the tribe would not have been able to survive.

How will you promote this novel?

At present, I plan blog tours, free giveaways of both e-books and print and/or mass market books.  Of course, ads.  Long ago I used to tour the bookstores when I had a new release — now those tour take the form of blogs, Facebook and such.